This is a gorgeously indulgent dish, full of rich earthy flavours and textures. For the best result, the ragu should be made with a mixture of wild mushrooms, such as Ceps, oyster mushrooms and Enoki), however these can be expensive and/or hard to get hold of depending on the season. A mixture of chestnut and large flat mushrooms would work well as an alternative, I wouldn’t bother with those polystyrene globules sold variously as ‘white mushrooms’ or ‘closed cup mushrooms’ as they have next to no flavour. You’ll still get a good depth of mushroomyness with the more commonly available varieties, as the dried porcini added to both ragu and sauce pack quite a punch, and they’re readily available in supermarkets; in fact I always have them in the storecupboard, ready to pep up any stew, risotto or soup which needs extra oomph.
Random foodie know-how: The white sauce in Lasagne is traditionally a béchamel sauce, but the Pecorino & Porcini sauce in this recipe is technically a velouté. The difference? Although both sauces begin with a classic roux (butter and flour gently heated together to make a thickening paste into which a hot liquid is then stirred), a velouté is made with stock – in this case the liquid from steeping the dried mushrooms – whereas a Béchamel is made with milk.
Lasagne of Wild Mushroom Ragu with Pecorino & Porcini sauce
250g fresh egg lasagne sheets (or equivalent of dried, cooked according to packet instructions)
For the ragu:
3 tbsp olive oil
large knob of butter
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely grated
1 celery stick, finely grated
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
pinch of crushed red chilli
2 tbsp tomato puree
1kg mushrooms, sliced
25g dried porcini mushrooms
250ml white wine (I recommend a Chardonnay or similar, nothing too tart)
1 x 390g carton chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
For the Pecorino-Porcini sauce:
15g unsalted butter
15g plain flour
100g Pecorino, grated
300ml sour cream
25g dried Porcini mushrooms
Nutmeg or ground mace, to taste
Start by rehydrating the porcini mushrooms (for both ragu and sauce) by pouring over a generous amount of freshly boiled water. Leave to soften and plump up.
Get a large saucepan or casserole dish nice and hot, then add the olive oil and butter and allow to melt. Sweat the onion, carrot, and celery gently until softened, then add the herbs, garlic, chilli and tomato puree and fry gently for a minute or two until starting to smell aromatic.
Drain the rehydrated porcini (reserve the liquid), and finely chop. Add the fresh mushrooms and half the chopped porcini to the saucepan (reserve the rest for the other sauce), and allow to sweat gently for a couple of minutes. Add the wines and tomatoes, season generously with salt and pepper, bring to a boil then turn down to a gentle simmer for 45 minutes.
In the meantime, make the Pecorino & Porcini sauce: melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring continuously, until golden. Add 200ml of the drained porcini liquid, drop by drop whilst whisking continuously, to make a smooth sauce. Add the chopped porcini, and simmer gently until starting to thicken. Stir in the grated pecorino and allow to melt, before adding the sour cream. Taste and season with salt, pepper and ground mace or nutmeg. Blitz briefly with a stick blender until smooth.
Once both sauces are ready, preheat the oven to 200C/fan180/Gas 6, and layer up the lasagne in a large dish. Start with a third of the ragu in the base, then the pasta sheets and half the Pecorino-Porcini sauce. Continue with another third of the ragu and more pasta sheets. Finish with a final layer of ragu, pasta sheets and the last of the sauce. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until bronzed and bubbling.